U police defend questioning Daily reporter

by Nathan Hall

University police and employees shared more details last week about the alleged harassment of a Minnesota Daily reporter by three police officers.

Reporter Koran Addo said he was surrounded and questioned by three police officers Oct. 9 in Williamson Hall after interviewing Bursar’s Office employees about the potential effects of a University clerical workers strike. The Daily printed an article on the incident the following day that police called irresponsible.

University police Capt. Steve Johnson defended the officers’ actions and said they were doing their jobs by responding to a Bursar’s Office call about a suspicious person.

Johnson could not be reached for comment that evening for the Daily’s initial story, which ran with no comment from police.

“The employees thought the building was being cased for a robbery and were afraid to leave Ö so I think they should have called the police,” Johnson said. “If we hadn’t responded that way, we wouldn’t have been doing our job.”

Johnson said the Bursar’s Office, which collects fees and tuition payments from students, has been robbed in the past.

Patricia Roth, director of cashiering operations for the Bursar’s Office, said she placed the call to the police after an employee told her there was a “highly suspicious person” hanging around.

“I don’t remember if he showed (the cashier) a business card, but he did ask how many employees we had and our methods for entering and exiting the building,” Roth said.

Roth said the employee did not answer most of Addo’s questions, so Addo left but kept looking around the corner.

Addo said he identified himself as a Daily reporter. He said he was waiting to interview other Bursar’s Office employees as they left work for the day, which is why he asked about where employees exited. He said he did not ask about the number of employees.

He said officers surrounded him for about 10 minutes, repeatedly demanded identification and refused to answer his questions about why he was stopped.

Because Addo did not have a press pass, had a North Dakota driver’s license and is taking University distance learning courses not included on this semester’s registration, police initially denied that he was a student or Daily

employee, Johnson said.

Daily Editor in Chief, Shane Hoefer, said he felt the police treatment was “excessive and inappropriate,” but said the Daily does not plan to file a lawsuit against the three officers who responded to the call.

Addo, who is black, said he was unsure if his race was a factor in the incident.